There is a narrative of the mainstream media, art and culture. There is a narrative of those on the margins. Individuals, most of them knowingly and a small section unknowingly, take sides. But for documentary filmmaker Sanjay Kak, the choice was not hard because of the “opaque nature” of the mainstream. “My films represent the alternative view of the world,” he says and is not apologetic about it, rather convinced that there is a need to strengthen the narrative of alternative.
But where is the space for the alternative media? “We have to make space and to some extent have been successful. Some 20 years ago, there were no takers for documentaries. But today, 200 to 300 people come to watch my films and it is not because of me, but for the issues that are dealt with in films.”
His latest documentary Maati Ke Laal (Red Ant Dream), which was screened in Chandigarh on Saturday, is about issues that concern majority of the people who have been pushed to the margins. But it is just not that. “The film is about politics of resistance, of the revolutionary spirit that connects Bastar to Paash’s poetry,” says Kak, whose previous documentary was Jashn-e-Azadi.
Of people who are the “biggest threat to India’s security”, Kak says: “They are hopeful people and not destructive. They are committed to the new world.” Then why their story never makes it to the mainstream media? Kak offers a take on the mainstream media. “Mainstream is in the minority.” How? “People who have the money and power are a few. Since they have access to resources, they project themselves to be in the mainstream. Besides, mainstream narrative has its economics. People who do not fit in that framework are pushed back.”
It is obvious that guerillas who question the present logic of development will never make it to that the mainstream media of the few.
Ideas that Kak holds have a select audience. So, isn’t there a need to transcend the barriers and take such ideas to a new audience? “That’s a challenge. After the screening of Maati Ke Laal in Delhi recently, a girl asked a basic question on how the mining is bad since it contributes to India’s growth. I was irritated by the question. Later, my daughter explained to me that her question might not interest you but it is important and must be answered, and that is chance to place your views.”
Sanjay Kak’s documentary Maati Ke Laal tries to capture the revolutionary spirit with which Ghadarites, Bhagat Singh fought during freedom struggle and now Maoists are fighting against the present development. He makes the point that people’s movements are connected.
Paash’s poetry forms an important part of the documentary. “I do not read poetry much but when I came to Punjab and asked what is left of the Naxalite movement here, the answer was art and culture. Poetry is the most effective way of distilling ideas.”
In one of the scenes, guerillas are moving in single file with Paash’s poem being read out in the background: “Assin ladaange saathi, jad tak ladan di lod baaki hai (We will fight, comrade; till it is required)”. This is the connect that Kak attempts to make.